A man who has spent 24 of his 50-plus years in and out of jail for a multitude of serious crimes, including attempted murder, received a standing ovation from a full house at the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce.
Showing hard time on his face and tattoos on his arms, Stan Mingo, a recovering crime addict from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, watched as the crowd of Langley business representatives and service providers rose to their feet to acknowledge his courage in talking about his life.
“I spent 24 years in jail and I didn’t care about nothin’,” said Mingo.
“I was in and out of jail. It was a revolving door, that was me. I had weapon charges, assault charges. I was smoking crack in the back alleys. I robbed a guy at knife-point just for a piece of pizza.”
He would break into cars, pimp out girls on the streets, sell drugs, hurt people, rob stores, mostly for the thrill of it, while also feeding his drug addiction.
“For me, stealing was mood altering. The only time I thought about getting clean was when I was in jail. By then I’d be out again and back doing drugs.”
But one particularly rainy, cold Vancouver night, a staff member from The Salvation Army Harbour Light saw Mingo in the alley behind the centre, and asked him if he’d like a bed to sleep in for the night.
Mingo took him up on the offer and it changed his life.
“Some of my friends were in Harbour Light and they were straight and they were happy. I liked what I saw,” he said.
At the time, Langley Salvation Army envoy Gary Johnson ran Harbour Light, which offers drug treatment programs and long-term supportive housing.
Mingo decided he’d try to kick his habits and joined the program.
He was given a counselor for support, a roof over his head and hot food to eat. After the three-month program was up, he was starting to better himself and hear from his family again, including two daughters he hadn’t spoken to in years.
He wanted to stay longer, too fearful that all the progress he made was going to go down the tubes once he got on the outside again.
So he asked to stay at Harbour Light for three more months, living in independent transitional housing.
“I asked Gary if I could borrow $180 so I could go to Vancouver Community College to become a substance abuse counsellor.”
Johnson gave him the money and now Mingo helps run a recovery house called Reaching Out, for those who want to stop doing crime.
“And we’re full.”
He also started a 12-step group called Crime Addictions Anonymous because he felt he was just as addicted to the rush of committing crime as he was to the high of a drug.
“First and foremost, I have a crime problem. I wish CAA was around 20 years ago,” he said.
His drug and crime-free life is a happy one. He credits the support network inside Harbour Light and his Christian faith for getting him through, including the care of Johnson and his counsellor and friend Marvin Cavanaugh.
Reprinted with permission by the Langley Times